It's no secret that Target and Walmart offer excellent deals on tons of items. But, are you shopping as strategically as you should at both retailers?
"Target and Walmart are known for their low prices," said Mark Mazza, co-founder and CEO of PromoCodeWatch.com. "But not all products are created equal — or sold equally, that is." The truth is, many of your everyday essentials actually cost more at Walmart and Target than at other comparable retailers," he added.
But don't write off Target and Walmart just yet. Instead, get the scoop on what you should buy and skip to get the best deal. After all, smart shopping isn't about not spending any money at all — it's about finding high-quality items and getting the deals that save you money.
Check out these tips on what you shouldn't buy at Walmart and Target — and what you should buy instead.
1. Don't Buy Store-Brand Trash Bags...
Buy this instead: Name-Brand Trash Bags
Yes, Target's and Walmart's generic brands can save you money and are often the better deal. But, it certainly doesn't pay to skimp on certain items, especially trash bags.
“The small savings that Target's up & up generic brand provides is not worth it when your trash ends up on the kitchen floor,” said Kyle James of Rather-Be-Shopping.com. So if you’re deciding between Target’s up & up Ultra Strong Tall Kitchen 14-pack of bags and the Glad Guaranteed Strong 120-pack, “spend the extra buck, and opt for the Glad kitchen bags."
Similarly, Walmart’s Great Value kitchen bags aren’t worth the slight savings compared to name-brand bags.
“Great Value [Tall Kitchen] Bags are $16.53 for 150 bags, but the stronger Husky brand 144-count kitchen bags are $3 less,” said Mazza. “And, though you get 30 fewer bags, Glad Guaranteed Strong bags are worth it in this case.”
2. Don't Buy Fresh Produce...
Buy this instead: Name-Brand Groceries
Neither Walmart nor Target is known for the freshest, best produce, said Kendal Perez of CouponSherpa.com. Besides the quality, the prices aren't that competitive, either. "I often find better prices on produce from my local Sprouts Farmers Market," she said.
That being said, both stores offer ways to save on the cost of food. "Both Target and Walmart are competitive when it comes to name-brand groceries, like cereal, yogurt, condiments and other popular food products," said Perez.
For example, Honey Nut Cheerios from Ralph’s costs $4.89 for a 12.25-ounce box. On the other hand, you can score a Family Size, 21.6-ounce box at Target for $3.79 and a Giant Size, 26.6-ounce box at Walmart for $4.67.
3. Don't Buy Shoes...
Buy this instead: Select Accessories
Looking to save money on shoes? You might find some savings at Target and Walmart, but better quality elsewhere.
"Shoes from Target and Walmart may look trendy and seem affordable," said Perez. "But, in reality, they’re cheaply made and consumers can find better-quality brands for similar prices at T.J. Maxx and Marshalls. For example, a pair of suede ankle booties from Target costs [approximately] $44.99, compared to a pair of Nine West suede booties from T.J. Maxx for $49.99."
Instead, head to Target and Walmart for your basic and must-have accessories.
"Accessories like scarves, sunglasses and gloves are good buys from both Walmart and Target," added Perez.
4. Don't Buy Furniture...
Buy this instead: Select Home Goods
You can definitely find affordable items to spice up your home at Walmart and Target — but choose wisely.
"Cheap furniture from Walmart and Target is just that — it works well for college students, but in the long-run consumers will pay more to replace these items," said Perez. "Instead, shoppers on a budget should check out antique stores, thrift shops and discount retailers like T.J. Maxx, HomeGoods and Marshalls for affordable, better-quality furniture options."
But select home goods — such as bathroom linens, bakeware and tabletop kitchen appliances — "are good deals from Target and Walmart," said Perez.
5. Don’t Buy Name-Brand Baking Goods...
Buy this instead: Store-Brand Baking Goods
Bakeware might be one of the better deals at these two big-box stores. But when it comes to baking and cooking ingredients, experts recommend skipping Walmart and Target for name-brand products. Instead, go for their store-brand counterparts.
For bulk dried goods such as flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, pepper and similar, buy store brand, said Brent Shelton at FatWallet.com. “Most store-branded baking goods are just repackaged from the name brand, so you’re getting the same product at a considerable discount.”
6. Don't Buy Name-Brand Snacks...
Buy this instead: Store-Brand Snacks
Again, store-brand is the answer when it comes to snacks at both Target and Walmart, according to the team over at DealNews.com. For example, you might want to buy a jar of Archer Farms salsa from Target and pair it with Great Value tortilla chips from Walmart.
Other deals experts seemed to agree.
“Based on data from my Walmart Savings Catcher receipts, Walmart almost never has the best prices on Wheat Thins or Triscuit crackers," said Perez. "Grocers like Albertsons and King Soopers offer these products for 25 percent to 30 percent less."
7. Don't Buy High-End Electronics...
Buy this instead: Mid-Range Electronics
Multiple deals experts have singled out some electronics as one of the worst deals at Target, as well as at Walmart.
"While both Target and Walmart sell name-brand electronics, including LG and Samsung, selection is limited and pricing isn't notably different from Amazon and Best Buy," said Perez.
However, not all electronics at Target and Walmart are bad buys. To score the best deals on electronics at these stores, it’s a matter of timing. "For the cheapest, mid-range HDTV, come Black Friday ... Walmart and Target are your best bet,” added Perez.
8. Don't Buy Makeup Remover Wipes...
Buy this instead: Baby Wipes
Instead of reaching for the makeup remover wipes, consider opting for baby wipes instead.
"Target Brand up & up [baby] wipes are hypoallergenic and free of alcohol, dyes, chlorine, parabens, fragrance and phthalates, which can be found in makeup removing wipes that may cause irritation or skin to breakout," said Kerry Sherin of Offers.com.
A 460-count box of up & up sensitive baby wipes goes for only $9.99. "For the cost/count ratio, these wipes blow pretty much every other comparable makeup wipe out of the water," added Sherin. "You can find comparable makeup wipes for around $3 to $4 for a 25-count pack."
9. Don't Buy Name-Brand Medication...
Buy this instead: Store-Brand Medication
If you need medicine, go for the store-brand over-the-counter medications at Walmart and Target. After all, generic medications are usually identical to their name-brand counterparts, said Benjamin Glaser, features editor at DealNews.
"Just check the labels, and you'll see they contain the same ingredients in the same quantities," he said. But in many cases, the store-brand version will likely be cheaper.
10. Don't Buy Gifts Cards...
Buy this instead: A DIY Gift Basket
Target and Walmart sell a wide variety of gift cards, but usually at full face value. However, online sites like Raise.com and stores like Costco sell them under face value, said James.
Instead of buying an expensive gift card, make a DIY gift basket as a present, said Jon Lal, CEO of BeFrugal.com. "By perusing the dollar sections and finding what’s on sale, put together a personalized gift basket for an inexpensive, yet thoughtful, gift idea," he said.
11. Don’t Buy Store-Brand Water Filters...
Buy this instead: Brita Filters
Water is the stuff of life, and you’ll want to pay extra for quality when it comes to your drinking water.
“For your Brita pitcher, buy the Brita filters, four pack at Target for $17.99,” said Shelton. “You can get the store-brand filters at a better price — up & up four packs at Target for $14.99 — but they’re not as reliable and don’t last as long as the Brita filters. The value in spending a little more favors the name brand, as does the customer reviews."
12. Don’t Buy Store-Brand Paper Towels...
Buy this instead: Name-Brand Paper Towels
Here’s another case of quality versus price. When comparing Bounty DuraTowel to Target’s up & up full-sheet, two-ply strength, "the Target brand is cheaper, [but] the Bounty brand is more durable and requires the use of less sheets at a time,” said Lal.
13. Don’t Buy Certain Women’s Toiletries...
Buy this instead: Men’s Toiletries
Women’s toiletries prices can be surprisingly high. Fortunately, certain bathroom essentials can be found for less — if you opt for the men's versions.
Just take a look at men's razors and shaving creams, which are prime examples of toiletries you should consider buying over the female versions. Despite the fact that men's razors and shaving creams are nearly identical and are of comparable quality to women's, some men's toiletries tend to be much cheaper, said Glaser.
14. Don't Buy Name-Brand Facial Scrubs...
Buy this instead: Store-Brand Facial Scrubs
Rather than jump for name-brand facial scrubs, here's another situation where Target's store-brand version will save you more money. Target's up & up Apricot Facial Scrub is made with the same ingredients as name-brand St. Ives Apricot Blemish Scrub, said Lal. But, the Target brand is cheaper.
15. Don’t Buy Mobile Accessories...
Buy this instead: An iPhone
The Apple Store might be your first and only stop when buying an iPhone. However, Target and Walmart are actually great places to buy an iPhone compared to Apple, said Glaser. Often, these stores offer competitive deals, including bundles with gift cards, as well as some tough-to-beat prices on prepaid iPhones, he said.
On the other hand, you might want to skip the mobile accessories at Target and Walmart.
“Shoppers pay a premium for mobile accessories — including chargers, cases and phone screens — from Target and Walmart compared to Amazon and other online retailers,” said Perez. “For example, Walmart sells a Multi-Compatible Wall Charger for $14.98 at my local store, compared to $7.78 for a similar charger from Amazon."
Read: 24 Best Deals at Walmart
This article originally appeared on GoBankingRates.